Thursday, June 28, 2007

Friendships and the Gospel

Or, "The One Roger's Been Waiting For."

I wrote:
I have for a long time believed that it is anti-gospel to jettison non-reciprocal friendships. I no longer believe this.
I attended Georgetown College. It's a small school, and a very large percentage of the student body is involved in a social organization, i.e. fraternities and sororities. Many who are not, are athletes or heavily involved with the "campus ministries" clique - though these groups are not mutually exclusive.

I made the mistake of remaining independent.

When I began my relationship with the school, I saw a lot of Greeks being fake with freshmen. These men and women were only interesting if they would make charismatic additions to the organization. That happens. What I didn't understand is that at Georgetown College, many, many of the people who remain independent never learn how to make friends, and never learn how to sustain friendships. After a few years of reflection, I have realized that my friends in the fraternities learned something that many of us don't learn in families or churches: that sometimes, we make decisions on what kind of people we're going to be, and that means we are stuck in a particular social situation with particular people, and that we must learn to fight things out and make up with one another like adults. If we don't do that, we never really become adults in meaningful ways.

In the past few years, I made the mistake of trying to maintain friendships with people I knew in college who don't have friends. I invested myself with these folks, caring about them and praying for them and spending time with them even though my other friends kept explaining to me, that there's a reason they don't have friends already, everybody thinks they're weird, etc.

It seemed to me that the way of Jesus is to keep being emotionally available for people who had no interest in supporting me. I being to realize over time, that I really felt used (this was not a recent decision). I realized there were several people in my life that I might see every few weeks, but I really cared about them more than I should have. Over Lent 2007 I decided to stop. I decided that I would stop reaching out to people who lied or me or only dealt with me through intermediaries or gossip. I decided with my friends, especially the ones with whom I gather at table, that I would quit trying to reach out. I would accept repentance, but I decided that it was silly and counterproductive to invite to repentance persons who weren't actually in the covenant community with me.

And I feel free. When I think of the people who used to be my friends, I say a prayer for them. And then I move on to something else. I wasn't sure anymore if I was trying to be like Christ - who pours himself out for the healing of friends and enemies alike - or if I was trying to be liked, or just trying to think of myself as Christlike. It's a dangerous uncertainty, that.

I don't know if this makes sense to any of you, but I imagine my usual readers and wise interlocutors will have some insightful things to say. Writing it makes me feel a little more bitter than I thought I was, so we'll see.


Anonymous said...

i wondered about that line when you first wrote it.

now, after reading this post, i get it. i think you've made a fair decision.

JHearne said...

I want to interact with you meaningfully about this but fear that it won't go too well online. Maybe we can talk about this when you're in?

Let me know, brother.